Back in 2008, when IPL was first conceived, an unknown face from Australia came out of no where and captured the imagination. The then Kings XI Punjab coach Tom Moody insisted on bringing Western Australia youngster Shaun Marsh on board and the move paid rich dividends. With 616 runs at an average of 68.44, Marsh, son of former Aussie international Geoff Marsh, finished as the top scorer in the tournament and bagged the orange cap. He soon broke into the national side in both ODI and twenty20 arenas and predictions of a glorious future started making rounds.
Now, after five years, things are back to square one for Marsh who finds himself back in the IPL to prove himself all over again. He made a sensational debut in test cricket with a century in September last year against Sri Lanka but soon things went spiraling downwards. After a poor test in South Africa and a disastrous summer at home against India, that saw him score a mere 17 runs at an awful 2.67 runs per innings in four tests, he lost his place in the West Indies bound national side.
But fortunately for Marsh, the IPL happens at right time to keep him busy and also give an opportunity to force his way back into the contention. Even though many sneer at the idea of IPL being a proper platform for international cricketers to prove their worth, few can deny the impact a good IPL season has. The biggest beneficiary has been Marsh’s fellow compatriot Shane Watson. Dogged by injuries all his career, Watson put up a stellar show in the inaugural IPL season and since then has been a permanent feature of the Australian team in all formats of the game.
Marsh, who will soon be turning 29, is at the crossroads of his career. While 29 is quite a ripe age when most batsmen reach the peak of their career, another season in the wilderness will send Marsh into the wrong side of 30 and then making a comeback will become a tad difficult. One might argue that generally the Australian selectors do not give much importance to age in selecting a player, case in point being Michael Hussey, but players like Brad Hodge and Martin Love will tell how cruel advancing age can be.
This season, his IPL journey got off to an ordinary start before taking off. After making just 7 in the opening game against Rajasthan Royals, he was dropped from the playing XI for the second tie against Pune. Then he made a very good return with a match winning unbeaten 64 at home and since then he has been contributing consistently to the team’s cause. His first Man of the match performance came in KXIP’s seventh game of the season when he played a mature innings of 68 off just 40 deliveries to guide his side past Mumbai Indians‘ total 0f 163.
The good thing for him is the fact that along with his Aussie mates Adam Gilchrist and David Hussey, he is one of the batting mainstays in the relatively weak Kings XI Punjab lineup. This not only ensures that he will get to play almost all of the games but also the responsibility will help him grow as a player.
Another factor that will be in favor of Marsh is the fact that old stalwarts Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey will be hanging their boots in near future. A superb home series against India provided a second lease of life to their career but within a season or two the change of guard is inevitable. Even though he will have competition from the likes of Usman Khawaja, Peter Forrest and Ed Cowan, his experience, especially in the subcontinent keeps him in good stead.
But before worrying about the national call up, he needs to step up and perform for his franchise Kings XI Punjab. Even after a morale boosting away win against Mumbai, Punjab has won just three matches in seven outings and with six points in the kitty, they are languishing at the seventh spot in the points table. From here, every game is crucial for the Mohali based team and Shaun Marsh’s effort at the top of the order will go a long way in deciding the fate of KXIP.